Working My Way Through The Stack: Torchlight

Posted by jakob187 (21759 posts) -

As someone who primarily plays games at work after hours, the chances of playing many of the latest and greatest that come out on PC can be a challenge.  When Torchlight initially came out on PC, it was a game that called to a strong pastime "addiction" that needed to be satiated: the addiction of hack 'n' slash RPGs in the vein of Diablo and Champions of Norrath.  These were two games that were rarely not being played in our house over the course of their lifespan, and in turn, it meant that getting my hands on Torchlight was something of a necessity.  Finally, the game has come to Xbox Live Arcade, and despite its myriad problems (such as massive frame rate issues and a cluttered inventory system), it is the type of game that makes you realize that...well...sometimes you just have to the beat the shit out of doods. 
 
It also makes you realize just how rare it is to see a hack 'n' slash RPG in this day and age.  The last one that I can even recall spending massive hours with was Champions: Return to Arms on the PS2.  Beyond that, there seems to be a strong lack of love for the genre since the release of the Xbox 360 five years ago.  Even a company like Snowblind, who made the Champions games as well as Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II, have found themselves moving out of the genre in some ways and instead focusing on something more akin to the third-person behind-the-back RPG style.  Meanwhile, all of us wait in anticipation for the granddaddy of the genre to finally release its newest installment.  Torchlight seems like the spark that needs to be lit in order to bring the genre back to attention, but is that spark enough in such a different gaming climate? 
 

 Call them what you want, but they are the same archetypes we all know from a million other games.
Sure, the hack 'n' slash RPG genre has never been "mainstream" or "popular".  Despite any type of success story in the genre, it's always something that ends up being a bit niche.  Torchlight definitely tries to break some of those barriers down.  Tips can be given throughout the game by simply keeping the Tips option turned on in the options.  The controls are relatively simple on the console, meaning that it would literally take a brain-dead limp monkey only a few minutes to figure out "yo, hold the X button to hit shit".  The cartoony art style doesn't necessarily mimic WoW, but it does a lot of mirror it with a large color palette and an affinity for fancy loot.  Hell, the game is a small download size (something that literally surprised the fuck out of me...pretty sure it's less than 200MB) and only puts you back by $15.00.  If anything, Torchlight on console makes the hack 'n' slash RPG highly accessible to anyone even remotely interested in checking it out... 
 
...but it's still missing something.  Multiplayer?  That's an obvious given that Runic plans to fix with the sequel.  Originality?  Maybe, as the game borrows many of its gameplay and systematic elements from previous like-minded games like Diablo and Fate.  Regardless of either, that's still not what's missing.  As I continue to plow through all the game, it becomes clearer with every hour spent what the game is missing:  an identity.  Because of the lack of originality, the lack of multiplayer, and the lack of any truly great lore or settings that go beyond the stereotypical trope of RPG standards, Torchlight is merely just another hack 'n' slash RPG.  It's a good one, but despite the time-sink that is can be, it never really goes beyond being a time-sink. 
 
Hopefully, Torchlight II will take this much further and offer its own identity beyond "hey, we're another game like Diablo".
#1 Edited by jakob187 (21759 posts) -

As someone who primarily plays games at work after hours, the chances of playing many of the latest and greatest that come out on PC can be a challenge.  When Torchlight initially came out on PC, it was a game that called to a strong pastime "addiction" that needed to be satiated: the addiction of hack 'n' slash RPGs in the vein of Diablo and Champions of Norrath.  These were two games that were rarely not being played in our house over the course of their lifespan, and in turn, it meant that getting my hands on Torchlight was something of a necessity.  Finally, the game has come to Xbox Live Arcade, and despite its myriad problems (such as massive frame rate issues and a cluttered inventory system), it is the type of game that makes you realize that...well...sometimes you just have to the beat the shit out of doods. 
 
It also makes you realize just how rare it is to see a hack 'n' slash RPG in this day and age.  The last one that I can even recall spending massive hours with was Champions: Return to Arms on the PS2.  Beyond that, there seems to be a strong lack of love for the genre since the release of the Xbox 360 five years ago.  Even a company like Snowblind, who made the Champions games as well as Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II, have found themselves moving out of the genre in some ways and instead focusing on something more akin to the third-person behind-the-back RPG style.  Meanwhile, all of us wait in anticipation for the granddaddy of the genre to finally release its newest installment.  Torchlight seems like the spark that needs to be lit in order to bring the genre back to attention, but is that spark enough in such a different gaming climate? 
 

 Call them what you want, but they are the same archetypes we all know from a million other games.
Sure, the hack 'n' slash RPG genre has never been "mainstream" or "popular".  Despite any type of success story in the genre, it's always something that ends up being a bit niche.  Torchlight definitely tries to break some of those barriers down.  Tips can be given throughout the game by simply keeping the Tips option turned on in the options.  The controls are relatively simple on the console, meaning that it would literally take a brain-dead limp monkey only a few minutes to figure out "yo, hold the X button to hit shit".  The cartoony art style doesn't necessarily mimic WoW, but it does a lot of mirror it with a large color palette and an affinity for fancy loot.  Hell, the game is a small download size (something that literally surprised the fuck out of me...pretty sure it's less than 200MB) and only puts you back by $15.00.  If anything, Torchlight on console makes the hack 'n' slash RPG highly accessible to anyone even remotely interested in checking it out... 
 
...but it's still missing something.  Multiplayer?  That's an obvious given that Runic plans to fix with the sequel.  Originality?  Maybe, as the game borrows many of its gameplay and systematic elements from previous like-minded games like Diablo and Fate.  Regardless of either, that's still not what's missing.  As I continue to plow through all the game, it becomes clearer with every hour spent what the game is missing:  an identity.  Because of the lack of originality, the lack of multiplayer, and the lack of any truly great lore or settings that go beyond the stereotypical trope of RPG standards, Torchlight is merely just another hack 'n' slash RPG.  It's a good one, but despite the time-sink that is can be, it never really goes beyond being a time-sink. 
 
Hopefully, Torchlight II will take this much further and offer its own identity beyond "hey, we're another game like Diablo".

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